senatedebate.101916

John Neely Kennedy speaks at the United State Senators candidates forum on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY LOUISIANA TECH UNIVERSITY

Monday's must-watch hearing before a U.S. Senate Judiciary subcommittee amounted to a star turn by fired acting attorney general Sally Yates, who testified about short-term national security adviser Michael Flynn's Russian connections and her refusal to enforce President Donald Trump's first travel ban.

Not so much for Louisiana's new senator, John Kennedy.

The hearing offered many a first prolonged look at Kennedy, who, like a number of his fellow Republicans, used his time to try to score points against a cool, collected former prosecutor who kept her answers tightly focused on the law, the Constitution and her duties in defending both. But in Kennedy's case, the social media reviews were particularly scathing.

There was this tweet, and worse, from Washington Post conservative blogger (and frequent Trump critic) Jennifer Rubin: "Sen. Kennedy is not impressing anyone."

And this from CNN's Chris Cillizza: "What if c-a-t actually spelled 'dog'? — Sen. John Kennedy's logic here, basically."

Some observers noted that the audience burst out laughing when Kennedy grilled a second witness, former director of national intelligence James Clapper, on whether he'd ever leaked either classified or unclassified information.

“Well, unclassified is not leaking,” Clapper deadpanned.

Also widely mocked was an exchange on the travel ban with Yates, which began like this:

"I don't mean any disrespect, who appointed you to the United States Supreme Court?" Kennedy asked.

Kennedy's point was that the U.S. Supreme Court is the court of final jurisdiction in determining an executive order or law's constitutionality. Yates explained that someone in her shoes has a duty not to enforce a presidential order that she believes is unconstitutional — which just happens to be the same point she made to current attorney general Jeff Session's obvious approval back when he was a senator and she was undergoing confirmation to serve under Barack Obama. Kennedy's question was absolutely disrespectful, but Yates answered the only way a grown-up could.

"Of course" she was not on the Supreme Court, she said. "It was because I took my responsibility seriously."

It's worth noting that not every review was negative. Kennedy's office found a good one on Fox, and tweeted out a link Tuesday morning. It's also worth noting that the talking head who said he nailed the Supreme Court question was former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, whose daughter Sarah Huckabee Sanders just happens to be a top Trump communications aide.

And it's hard to ignore the stark contrast with how the day went for the state's senior senator, Bill Cassidy, who won positive notice for his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel's late night network talk show to discuss health care. 

Some observers who were seeing Kennedy in action for the first time even questioned whether the senator is very bright. He is, of course, as those who've watched him for a long time know. They also know that he has a history of cranking up the outrage and incredulity for maximum effect, a habit that served him just fine in Louisiana.

Clearly the effect was lost on much of his new, broader audience.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.